Spring 2023

Jerry Epps: Maximizing Opportunities for Diverse Suppliers

Jerry Epps smiles for a portrait

For Jerry Epps, opportunity is everything. Babson College’s first director of vendor diversity has spent his life and career finding, maximizing, and even creating opportunities—for himself and others.

Epps joined Babson in August 2021 after 42 years with Boston Children’s Hospital. Yes, 42 years—he began in food service as a high school junior. He quickly progressed from a day cook’s helper to the store room. “That’s how I started getting into procurement and learning more about inventory,” he says. While working at the hospital, he attended Boston Business School and Newbury College. Eventually, Epps rose to become the hospital’s capital equipment buyer and its supplier diversity program manager.

Now a leading expert in the field and employed at Babson, Epps has created the College’s Office of Vendor Diversity and its supplier diversity program.

The Q&A

How difficult was it to leave Boston Children’s Hospital, and what motivated you to come to Babson?

“Never in my wildest dreams did I envision that I would stay there that long, but a lot of people are still shocked that I left Boston Children’s Hospital. They called me the mayor because I knew so many people. By 2021, though, a lot of organizations were looking to expand their supplier diversity, and because I had built the program at Children’s and had a reputation in the field, several had contacted me about new positions, including Babson. It was hard leaving Children’s, and I was heartbroken because I grew up there. Everyone asks why I left, and I say it was the opportunity at Babson. This was an opportunity to go somewhere and build something from the ground up. I knew that I already had a template on how to build a program, and I knew that I had a name in the industry. So, I told Babson that we needed to be fully engaged in the supply diversity community. It’s an opportunity to go somewhere and be the first. I am in Babson’s history forever, and I embrace it. I embrace the love here, being One Babson.”

How do you describe your role as the first director of vendor diversity?

“I’m here to build a supplier diversity program. My job is to help small and diverse suppliers have the opportunity to do business with Babson College. We’re not telling these suppliers that we’re going to do business with them, but we’re going to give them an opportunity to bid, and they’ve got to add value and support the daily operations of the College. The reaction on campus so far has been really positive. I’ve been able to bring suppliers to the table, and people have been open. Everybody is on board with the president’s objective to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. Also, one of my goals this year is to keep elevating Babson’s presence in this space—locally, regionally, and nationally. When I advise other organizations or meet with other people, I’m representing Babson. Last fall, when I went to New Orleans for the 50th anniversary of the National Minority Supplier Development Council Conference, I was wearing my Babson green.”

“As I go out nationally, I see a lot of industries are still behind the eight ball when it comes to supplier diversity. So, Babson has an opportunity to lead on this and elevate it to a competitive advantage.”
Jerry Epps, Babson’s director of vendor diversity

Why is supplier diversity important, especially in supporting the College’s objectives?

“As I go out nationally, I see a lot of industries are still behind the eight ball when it comes to supplier diversity. So, Babson has an opportunity to lead on this and elevate it to a competitive advantage. We’ve got to look at what we do, and not just what we say. The backbone of this country is small and diverse suppliers, so we’ve got to look at the economic impact of these companies, and how we can support them in that growth in our community. They’re creating jobs; they’re providing health care; they’re paying taxes. If we’re an anchor institution, we need to support that economic impact. We’re not just going to check off the box when it comes to supplier diversity. We’re doing it to make an impact in people’s lives and help close the racial wealth gap. That’s the main thing.”

Two More for Jerry

What does Babson mean to you?

“Babson, to me, means business. What I mean by that is our senior management team’s approach to promoting economic prosperity and cultural equity through fostering an atmosphere of diversity and inclusion in the supply chain and the workplace. This is one of the main reasons I’m here at Babson.”

Right now, what are you …

  • Reading? “I’m currently reading Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others by Stephen M.R. Covey, with David Kasperson, McKinlee Covey, and Gary T. Judd.”
  • Watching? “House of the Dragon” on HBO and “Snowfall” on FX
  • Listening to? Various R&B artists
  • Doing in your free time? Concerts, live sporting events, and traveling

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